The EU needs to redouble efforts to keep sufficient quantity and quality of fresh water

The European Environment Agency (EEA) took stock of the 2012, ‘European Year of Water’, and also presented important findings in many other areas, including air, climate, biodiversity and chemicals. According to EEA, Europe needs to redouble efforts to keep sufficient quantity and quality of fresh water to maintain our ecosystems that sustain our society and economy.

The European Environment Agency (EEA) published a series of reports during 2012 assessing the state of European waters. One of the messages that emerged during 2012, ‘European Year of Water’ according to these reports is that Europe needs to work harder to protect its water resources from increasing pressures. In particular, the reports evaluated critical aspects of water to support policymaking, focusing on resource efficiency and water economics, ecological and chemical status, hydro-morphology, vulnerability and biodiversity. In November 2012, the European Commission presented a strategy plan to safeguard Europe's waters.

Among the findings published by the EEA, almost half of Europe’s water bodies will miss the target set by the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and still be in poor ecological status in 2015. Also ‘Hydromorphological’ changes, such as dams, straightening and dredging can also damage ecosystems, preventing migration and spawning. This affects around 40% of rivers and transitional water bodies and 30% of the lakes. The EEA also stressed that water use often exceeds water availability, resulting in water stress across much of Europe. This has knock-on effects for the economy and the natural world.

Another concern raised by the EEA is that drought is increasing across Europe. The number of countries affected by drought per decade increased from 15 in the period 1971–1980, to 28 in the period 2001–2011. The reports confirm that climate change is expected to exacerbate this problem. The EEA also reported that the quality of bathing water across Europe declined slightly between 2009 and 2010, but the overall quality was still high. More positively, the EEA is working with new partners to improve its water data. In December the EEA met with water utilities from across Europe, as a first step to sharing data and improving knowledge on water resources.